My tough love approach (heavy on the love) focuses on bringing order to chaos, and creating solid (and straightforward) strategic plans. I take surveys for fun, never met a process I didn’t like, and am a big believer in personal growth as a keystone to business growth.
Inspiration and motivation can get you going, but habits keep you going. This is true whether you’re building your business, bodybuilding, or decorating your Christmas tree.
There are books and courses and wonderful TED Talks about finding inspiration (or motivation, if that’s what you relate to), but there’s a problem they don’t generally acknowledge: it’s fleeting.
Inspiration comes and goes just like any other emotion. Which means it’s unreliable as a tool for getting things done.
You build habits with just two things:
That's it! These two things can make the difference between setting a goal and actually achieving it.
A habit is something done with little or no thought. For example morning hygiene is a habit (for most people). It all just seems to happen without thought or major effort: brushing your teeth, showering, shaving, caring for your skin, etc. And your morning hygiene habit might be part of a larger morning routine consisting of hygiene, exercise, and journaling.
These actions are not hard in and of themselves, but by purposely stringing them together you can achieve a much larger result.
So that's routines, but how do you make them happen? That's where our second step above comes in. Discipline is the mental commitment it takes to turn a behaviour into a routine and then develop that into an ingrained habit.
Now, in case you find that “D-word” scary, remember:
It’s an act of self-love and self-care. It’s the thing you would tell yourself to do if you were your own best friend.
And, over time, discipline gets easier and more reliable – the exact opposite of inspiration.
At the risk of bursting your bubble: creating habits isn’t a magic wand that applies to every possible task. You shouldn't expect to put all the tedious or unenjoyable tasks on autopilot and make your to-do list check itself off. (I wish!) Not every routine can grow into a habit.
Some routines don’t turn into habits because they’re not effortless behaviours that can be done with little or no thought. For example, cleaning your house or writing to your email list every week are pretty involved processes. Just remember to lean into discipline and patience. That will help keep your routines intact even if they don’t become habits.
But if you're able to take a routine and cut it up into chunks of simple tasks, like cleaning your bathroom mirror after brushing your teeth, can give you the tools needed for habit-building. Connecting one routine to another, like writing stream-of-consciousness before turning on your phone, can turn into habits and make more deliberate routines more sustainable. (More on micro-habits below.)
Reflect on what you’re trying to achieve in your business and why. If your goal is to write to your email list every week, do you primarily want to share your thoughts as a leader? Make more sales? Gain approval from someone you admire? Or because you think it’s what you should be doing?
Understanding your Why will help you stay disciplined when inevitable roadblocks to building new routines surface.
What’s kept you from building this routine in the past? Write it down. If you’re like most entrepreneurs I work with, overwhelm may be a factor. Or maybe it’s not knowing where to start. Having the specific thing that stopped you written in plain text on paper transforms it into something you can handle.
When you know what’s stopped you in the past, document your progress and set aside time to work on those problems. If needed, be up-front about your goals and obstacles with someone who can provide encouragement or accountability.
Try using nudges, triggers, or activators to turn smaller routines into habits. My friend, Mary, always does her nightly facial routine when she takes out her contact lenses, no matter the time of day. If she waits until bedtime, it’s too easy to skip.
Another friend, Allison, sets up her Chrome tabs the night before so that she can jump right into work when she gets to her desk without getting distracted by her task list beforehand.
Business example: if you want to make emailing your list weekly into a more sustainable habit, your SOPs and calendar can come in wildly handy. For instance, when your weekly email has a documented process, you can outsource the nudges to your VA. Ask them to set up the template draft with a content reminder the day before, so that you can just sit down and write.
Long-term change takes time! Be compassionate with yourself as you create new habits. You’ve made it this far, and you’re very capable! Keep cultivating your discipline and take it day by day. You’ve got this.
Please share in the comments below: what habits do you wish to create for your business? Your life? What’s kept you from it in the past?
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